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Game brings joy, preserves memory

Community helps Santa visit Cortland homes

CORTLAND — In many communities, Santa Claus visits homes on Dec. 24. In one Trumbull County city, however, Santa comes two months earlier.

Last year, some Cortland residents had a surprise visitor on their lawns. A traveling Santa Claus was spotted in yards around the city and in Bazetta — and it could mean the start of a new tradition.

Chrissy Farr started the game in her neighborhood. She said a cutout Santa was found after helping one of her neighbors, Chris Parise, after his father died.

“We were helping him clean his garage when we found the Santa. So we started putting him in each others’ yards as a joke. But then we thought we could bring it to the community,” Farr said.

The real reason the game started was to preserve Parise’s father’s memory.

The rules are simple: If Santa appears in your yard, sign the back, post a picture on “The Traveling Cortland Santa Page” and move him elsewhere in another day or two.

The only stipulation is that he must be returned to 251 Michaels Court, Chris’ address, on or before Christmas Eve.

It quickly caught on and people were excited to be a part of the game. Last year, the game started Aug. 11, according to the Facebook page. This year, Santa was spotted Oct. 7 and the game was underway.

“I think it’s great. It’s something for both kids and adults to get excited about, especially during COVID,” city Councilwoman Kathy Fleischer said.

Last year, 50 to 60 people participated and Farr expects the same amount of involvement now. Initially Farr was concerned about participation due to COVID-19, but the concern went away after seeing positive reactions from the community.

“With things being so gloomy, this is a bright spot for people to still have some fun,” Farr said.

The game has a double meaning and Farr said it’s great to see children and adults have fun with it, as well as see the joy the cutout brings, in memory of Parise’s father.

Fleischer said her favorite part of the game is the children.

“I love looking at the pictures of the kids with Santa. They are so happy he visited,” she said. “It’s neat to see all the signatures on the back that give a record of all the families he’s visited.”

One of the stops Santa made was to the Riola residence. Diane Riola said her children, Eliana, Adrian and Judah, were full of excitement, surprise and wonder.

“They ran out of the house to see him and they were cheering,” Riola said. “They said Christmas must be getting closer if Santa was visiting already.”

“Even if he doesn’t visit your yard, he brings a smile to everyone as he visits the different neighborhoods,” Fleischer said.

nhawthorne@tribtoday.com

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